Field Trip Friday: the backstory -

Field Trip Friday: the backstory

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I’ve been posting about our Field Trip Friday outings off and on for a few years. You can catch up on all of them here. Or at least the ones I categorized correctly.

For this month’s Montana Parent I wrote about the thinking behind the field trips:

Remember when you were a kid and had an upcoming field trip? It was so exciting. I’d rush home with my permission slip, and start thinking about what new and exciting place we’d be visiting. My mom would share whatever information she had about the destination (there was no Googling things way back then), and I’d prepare for a big exploration.

Now that I am an adult (at least chronologically) I can take all the field trips I want. No permission slip required. And since I homeschool my boys, we can take them whenever we want.

I’ve instituted “Field Trip Friday” as part of our homeschool plan, but honestly, we take them any day of the week we feel like it. And we do them year round. The most important goal of our field trips is to have fun, but I also like them to be educational, to incite our creativity, and get us mostly outside. If we can go somewhere brand new, all the better.

The boys and I have visited with otters at ZooMontana, investigated physics at ExplorationWorks!, climbed Sacajawea Peak, soaked in the hot pools at White Sulfur Springs, wandered around Tizer Botanical Gardens, and gazed at paintings at the Yellowstone Art Museum. Sometimes we go with other homeschooling families, but usually, it’s just the three of us exploring Montana.

My kids don’t have to depend on my knowledge to prepare for a field trip. We trip plan online. The Museum of the Rockies, Yellowstone National Park, and other places have information and activities I can download before we go. Instead of just wandering through Native American artifacts, we are learning about how people used bison skins; instead of passing by pools of belching mud, we discuss what makes mud pots pop and gurgle. At the Capitol Building we followed scavenger hunt brochure made just for kids and “met” an early peacemaker and a dog that crossed the country with Lewis and Clark.

My boys learn so much more when we are out interacting with our learning subjects. If I prep them before we go, and follow up after, they get a thorough understanding of many subjects that’s hard to come by from books or the Internet alone.

A lot of our field trips have been along hiking trails. We are lucky to live close enough to Yellowstone to bop down there anytime we like, and like most Montanans, we are never far from a trail. We use field guides and identify plants and birds. We discern how the geology affects the vegetation and hydrology. Maps are pulled from packs to follow a stream to its source.

We’ve enjoyed our outings so much that I’ve started setting up field trips for our homeschool science group. A little more formal, these field trips are more like the school-arranged visits of my youth with an expert talking to the kids and leading us on a tour.

And sometimes my boys and I are having so much fun, that we do two “Field Trip Fridays” per week.

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